Electronic cigarette makers are rushing to design or procure new technologies to cash in on the multi-billion-dollar industry, Reuters reported.
The race to create new devices is partly due to the prospect of stiffer regulation on existing ones following a call by the World Health Organization, and bans on indoor use and advertising, it noted.
Both big tobacco firms and small entrepreneurs are scrambling to find new ways to “vape”, the report said. New versions being patented include a “pay as you go” computer-assisted device and others that can deliver caffeine instead, it said.
In 2005, eight e-cigarette inventions were described in published patents. By 2012 the figure had jumped to 220 and by last year there were over 500 inventions, according to Thomson Reuters research. This year, the figure is said to have reached 650.
The original technology, involving battery-powered heating systems that vaporize nicotine-laced liquid, is credited to Hon Lik, a Chinese medical researcher, in 2003.
Imperial Tobacco Group plc last year snapped up the patents owned by the company Hon co-founded in a deal worth US$75 million, and is suing rivals for a range of alleged patent infringements, the report noted.
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